Saturday, August 20, 2011

Conan the Barbarian - spoiler free movie review

As hardcore fan of all things Conan I have went to see new movie on the opening night. Went in the movie theater with a cautious optimism and went out with mixed feelings. Wait, wait, just to be sure before we get any further THE MOVIE DID NOT SUCK. There, now you can read further without worrying that I will shit all over the CTB and ruining it for you.

The world

The feel of Hyboria was captured perfectly. There are many references to actual places like Hyrkania and the architecture (particularly that of Acheron) is amazing. The visuals when it comes to weapons and armors are also nailed down to what should be expected. Apart from Cimmerians raiding horses (good luck with breeding horses in the mountains ;p) there were no major mess ups. The cimmerians could be a tad more hardcore, but overall the movie did justice to them. Everything was very dirty, gritty and rugged which I liked: if a character was cut (like Tamara) the scar will stay in the next shot, and if the characters are fighting on the dirt they will get dirty. That is just how things should be.

The gore

I was very afraid that the movie producers will go with that PG-13 crap and turn savage world of Conan into chick-flick. Not so. This is the most bloody and brutal movie I have seen without the director taking it to the absurd level of "The Saw" or "Tarantino" movies. Just right amount of savagery and blood splatter.

The script
By Crom, here we go. Time to take the first dump on the CTB. It is like the writers could not make the decision: should we go full nerd-core on this or go back to 1980 style where the only thing the movie has in common with the books is Conan. The end result is this half-baked story where it is "kinda Conan" story, but with references to actual stuff from the books (Artus, for example, talks how Conan killed Yara and stole the elephant hart gem). It very much feels like the writers wanted to throw a bone to hardcore fans, but at the same time make Conan easier to digest for casual movie watchers. This is unacceptable. The story of itself is cheesy Acheron magic power-flick (give the fucking Acheron a rest already, its has been gone for 3000 years at the time of Conan :X) and once again Conan is driven by the vengeance. I loved the books because Conan was just roaming the lands of Hyboria searching for riches and good fights, not because he had father-issues to deal with. Bah! It was a weak script, WEAK I tell you! And the scene when the Conan was born on the battlefield... it was so much rushed that it felt more like an abortion and not a birth. If you want to do a scene that portraits an event that supposedly defines the character don't rush things. Let's get over with this...

Fighting and magic

Both done very well. The sword fights are very artful and brutal and the magic that is shown in the movie fits what is portrayed in the books: mix of demonology, necromancery and mesmerism. Really, not much to say here other that well done.

The characters

No one annoyed me with their acting which is good. Did I say no one? Well apart from Zym's daughter when see was a kid. For some reasons the writers went with this goth-emo-chick and she very much felt out of place both with her acting and wardrobe. Geez, why not put some tattoos on her too along with a stripe of green and pink hair? I really liked Artus, he was a cool guy. Ela-Shan was obviously a character lifted straight from Conan the Destroyer for he resembles Malak in every way.


Ah crap, this will be hard. The acting on Conan was decent apart from Momoa trying to get that deep, low voice that Batman fails so miserably at. Its cheesy acting and it doesn't make the character feel tough at all. Geez, go see a throat doctor or something. Second thing and kinda important: Momoa was not in shape for this movie. There, I have said it. Being actively involved with bodybuilding for several years myself I know how hard it is to pack on meat on your bones. This is why I really appreciate actors like Stephen Lang who really busted his guts to look respectable for the role of Colonel Miles Quaritch (and Zym in CTB, can you believe that?). Just doing some weight lifting and eating some chicken with peanut butter (supposedly Momoa's pre movie diet) ain't gonna cut it when you are preparing to play the role of Conan, a character very much defined by his body and sword arm. I am not saying that Conan must be looking like 7 times Mr Olympia Arnold Schwarzenegger, but the looks of Momoa is pulling in Conan could do for shows like Xeena or other bull crap.I am calling for a happy medium. If you can't get a good bulk going then at least go for shredded, ripped appearance. Momoa has neither the mass nor the conditioning in the CTB.  Why is this important? Well Conan is getting is ass kicked by almost everyone in the movie. Every major thug out weights him and throws around like a rag doll. In the books Conan had his speed and agility (to which Momoa did justice), but lets not forget that he had broken the neck of Cimmerian bull before he was 15teen. Also Conan strangled Baal-pteor (a man of amazing strength) and pretty much tanked Thak, a bone-crushing gorilla. In the the books at worst Conan strength is matched, but usually he just bitch slaps his opponents into submission. The movie lacked the feel of that raw strength which was replaced with "agile swordsman". If you are going to be playing Conan then please try harder, almost every actor in "300" would have done a better job with their conditioning for the movie. So Momoa could have done a lot better but he didn't and I don't think it was intentional.

The music

It was just there, in the background. Sadly no memorable tune. In that regards 1980 Conan is till a masterpiece.

The verdict

I don't think I would want to see this movie again any time soon, but over all it did not disappoint. It has it's strength and weaknesses, but the core (the world and the fights) is there. I wouldn't cry is Momoa was not hired for the second movie, but if he pulls his act together he can stay because for most part he did a good enough job. Hell, compared to Arndol he did a great job. I would say go see this movie, if anything it will make your appreciate Funcom writers even more. Those guys are worshiping Robert E.Howard and turning out gold when it comes to lore. Hey Lions Gate Movies, go hire some good folks at Funcom to get you the next script and have your current writers serve them coffee or something. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ultimate Guide to Khitai Quests (max rewards per hour)

A while ago I did a guide on how to get MOAs in Khitai (the guide is horribly outdated). I wasn't quite satisfied with that guide because it was about me trying to squeeze the best MOA per hour out of the factions I have picked for the gear they were offering. There had to be a better way. During my total faction switch I have discovered new and interesting quests and figured out the best possible way to chain them together to create optimal results. This guide will provide you with step-by-step tips on how to gain, in my humble opinion, the maximal rewards out of 1 hour playing session in Khitai.

Before we go any further I would like to state that this whole thing has been researched and written from the perspective and experience of a veteran Assassin with loads of AA points and mostly epic Khitai gear. I cannot tell if what I am describing below is do-able for other classes or with slightly lower amount of AA and gear score. Probably is, so worth a shot, ain't it?

Completing the quests in this guide should take around 55m-60m. This is how I am doing my solo PVE in Age of Conan: I have about an hour to play in the morning so I have been always looking to get the most out of my gaming. I suppose you could tweak the quest rotation to get even more MOAs, but without the Refuge instance and with Paikang included. I highly recommend doing Refugee runs, especially for casual players that will never do any Hard Mode runs. Just by doing daily Refuge runs I was able to buy 2 Khitai epics and the bag drops alone are worth the effort. I am giving out some tips on 3 quests that you can do while following my guide, but completing them would take little more than an hour (probably something around 1,20h). I am calling those "extra quests". The thing with extra quests is that during your 1h run you will always kill 2-3 mobs that are required for "extra quests" so you will do those quests eventually, as a result of your normal questing.
If you are an assassin you might want to consider the build I have suggested for solo PVE in Khitai.

What you will need:
Hyrkanians - rank 2
Brittle Blade - rank 2
Scarlet Circle - rank 2
Children of Yag-Kosha rank 2
Jiang Shi - maxed out (not sure about this)
Wagoner route maps - my guide uses very interesting mechanic that is present in Kara Korum. This zone has only one fast travel NPC which allows you to use Route Maps (can be bought from NPC standing next to wagoner)  to "jump" around the map, saving you a lot of time.
Swift Horse - you need to be fast in order to get all the quests done in 1 hour.
Accelerated Feat - use it whenever you can to get around faster.
Pots and Food
Path of Asura bound to village in Grass Lands
Veteran reward path to Chosain
Here is what I had before I began my 1h run:

Gold: 44g 47silver
Insignias: 94
Marks of Acclaim: 282
Rare Tokens: 49
 1. First you start in Grasslands. Bind yourself to this place if you haven't already.
2. Mount up and ride to Kara Korum. The entrance is very close.
3. Talk to Scarlet Circle NPC in Kara Korum and take "The Backbone of Khitai" quest. You will need to gather 30 bones from humanoid NPC. Don't worry, you will get those bones in Refugee solo instance.
4. Talk to Brittle Blade NPC and take "The Bones of the warriors". This is extra quest that you might want to do, but it is not in my rotation.
5. Talk to Children of Yag-kosha NPC and take "Lost Logs" and "Furnace of Fengu" quests.
6. Go around and pick up corpses.
7. Talk to Jiang Shi NPC and take "Infinite Matters of Trust" quest. You might also want to take extra quest which name I cannot remember (I had it on cooldown). You need to kill 30 Kang Zai and loot their skulls.
8. Jump down and burn the corpses on the pyre.
9. Go back to the entrance and talk to Jiang Shi NPC. She will follow you. Don't run too fast or the quest will fail.
10. Take the Jian Shi NPC to the entrance to the village. Be prepared to fight two weak NPCs.
11. Finish the quest and mount up. Next stop: the Palace.
12. Following the route shown above will take you safely to the corrupted village near the palace.
13. Talk to Children NPC and take "The Endless Curse of the Crater" quest.
14. Dig up the near-by treasure.
15. Use the "cure" on the neutral corrupted NPCs. Attack them and kill as soon as you have used the cure on them.
16. Return the quest to Children NPC. 
17. Mount up and ride to the palace.
18. In palace talk to Brittle Blade NPC and take "The Pride of Pra-Eun". I will give the name of this NPC because she is so freaking cool: Szeto.
 19. Go to the top floor of the palace and talk to Scarlet Circle NPC. Take the "Disarming the Defectors" and "Deciphering Reality" quests.
20. Use your Route Map scroll and you will be instantly ported to Fengu village.
21. Mount up and ride to the Ghost Hill.

21. Along the way, without dismounting, click two times on "Lost Villager" NPC. This will complete the quest for Szeto (do we love her or what?)

22. Ride to the Ghost Hill taking the route near the Living Forest. If you have armored horse or any other mount with added protection from knocking you off it NOW is the time to change the mounts. There will be loads of NPC trying to kill you, be sure to use accelerated and cat's paw if you are an assasssin.
23. In the Ghost Hill village pick up the medical logs and loot the hidden chest.
24. Dig up the treasure and pick up quest for the Brittle Blade. Turn around and run to the entrance to the Refugee of Apostate while killing the ghosts and picking up medical logs for the Children quest ("Lost Logs") until you are done.
25. Talk to the NPC near the entrance to the Refugee of the Apostate and take "The Collector's Agent" quest. I firmly believe that this quest is "broken" because it gives 1 insignia (I suppose it was intended to give 10). We will NOT go back from the instance to return this quest. You will finish it during your next 1 hour run.
26. Enter the solo instance. You will get bones for the "Backbone of Khitai" by killing NPC in here. Proceed to kill the Corpse Walker boss firs.
27. Fight your way to the maze. The screenshots show you the order in which you must use the switches to pass trought.
28. Before you enter the room with the boss use mouse scroll to zoom in to the "First Person Perspective" mode at pay close attention to the NPCs. The real Boss will be clapping. Remember which NPC clapped.

29. In the nightmare you need to reach the spots with the light and then use dubble tap backwards as the Boss try to knock you back. Make use you dubble tap in a direction that will allow you to land on the ground :X If you are an assassin then use accelerated and just run through the nightmare giving the Boss the finger.
30. Attack only the Boss that previously clapped. Use crossbow to get thim in the middle. If you are an assassin then this is simple tank&spank Boss. As the Boss prepares to unleash his devastating magical attack use Dull Pain to mitigate 90% of the damage and again, make sure to flip him off.
31. Loot the Boss, take notes and use portal to the palace.

32. Mount up and run to the palace. Talk to Szeto and return the quest. Run to the top floor. Talk to Scarlet Circle NPC and return the quests. Use Route Map to port to the Fengu village.
33. While in Fengu you can take extra quest "Collection of Cacti" from the quest board. The quest can be taken from the poster in the middle. If you didn't get the right quest first time then delete whatever quest you have taken and try again. Mount up and ride outside the village until you reach the statue (very close), jump behind the fence and ride down to the area where Kang Zais are.
 34. Ride until you reach the end of the map. You can now do your extra quests: pick up cactai, kill the boss (for the chest) and then kill 30 Kang Zai. If you want to do the quests in 1h then skip this part and go to number 35.

35. Click on the circle and that will spawn Kang Zai. Run away from the spawned Kang Zai until you have lost the aggro and hide. Use you path to Shaulun.
36. In Shaulun take the quest "Bloodshed in the shadows" off the board and then talk to Brittle Blade NPC for the quests "Bloody Bargains" and "Contract killer".
37. Take the scrolls of the shelves to spawn the random quests. All of them are similarly fast and easy except "Kill Jiang Shi in Chosain". If you get the Jian Shi quest then delete it and talk to NPC to take the quest again. Repeat until you get new quest (should be pretty fast 2-4 tries max).

38. Kill 12 Shadows of Jade NPCs in their base and then, depending on your other 2 quests, kill the Kai-xi and the recruiter.  Killing family members or the Herbailist is exacly as easy.

39. Return the quests to Brittle Blade NPC and then use your Path of Asura to port back to Grasslands.
40. Talk to the Children of Yag-kosha NPC and take "Demon in Disguise" quest. Take the flasks and run up the nearby stairs to the House of Healing.
41. In the House of Healing talk to the NPCs. The last NPC is upstairs and he is bugged (no "?" will be shown above his head), but talk to him anyway. After the dialog ends the priest of Yun NPC spawns. Kill him and run downstairs to the quest giver.
42. Return the quest and run towards the Hyrkanian camp.

43. Mount up and ride to the Hyrkanian camp. Switch your main weapon to crossbow. It is VITAL that you talk to NPC and take the quests in the order shown above because one quest has a time take will start asap you take it. Talk to Hyrkanian female NPC and take "Venom in the Blood". Talk to the bold male NPC and take "A Hard Course" first and then "The Stallion" and lastly "Target Practice".

44. Ride around the camp and shoot up the dummies. Then take the course challenge. Use accelerated to beat the clock.
45. Time to tame a stallion. Dismount and shot one of the large, black horses with a crossbow. The horse will aggro, separate from the pack and attack you. Use your whip (given by the NPC) and then use cat's paw and stay with active blocking up until the whip goes off the cooldown. The horse is immiune to CCs and you should NOT attack it. Use pots. The horse should be tamed after several whip hits. Run with the stallion to the nearby field where the demons are.
46. Find a snake and hit him with only your weapon ("white hits") in one direction so his shields stack up. You want all shields to be in same direction as you are hitting. The snake should NOT die. Keep hitting the snake until you get the nasty debuff and CC it and run away or kill it. Run back with your horse to the Hyrkanian Camp.
47. Again the order in which you return the quests  is VITAL because you could lose the stallion. First go near the bald male NPC so the stallion disappears. Then return the snake quest to the female and THEN talk to male NPC to return all 3 quests.
48. Mount up and ride to the Kara Korum.
49.In Fengu village kill random NPC for the Birttle Blade quest you picked up in Ghost Hill.
50. In Fengu village return the quests to Scarlet Circle NPC, to Brittle Blade NPC, to Children of Yag-Kosha NPC and to Jiang Shi NPC.  Open your expedition packs and the sell all random loot to the NPC. Buy back 2 wagoner route maps for future use. That is it!

The Stats:

Gold: 46g 51 silver - 44g 47silver = 2g 2 silver earned (extra quests would add 20 silver more)
Insignias: 103 - 94 =  9 gained (extra quest would add 7 more)
Marks of Acclaim: 554- 282 = 272 gained (extra quests would add 38 more).
Rare Tokens: 51 - 49 = 3 gained
Expedition packs = 10 looted